American Utopia at the St. James Theater

David Bryne's American Utopia. Courtesy: Playbill
David Bryne's American Utopia. Courtesy: Playbill
Rating
4.6/5
The last performance of David Byrne’s American Utopia at the St. James Theater on Broadway was Sunday, April 3, 2022. It was bittersweet. Standing outside the stage door, waiting for the cast to exit for the last time with me, is 7-year-old Aiden Doshi. He hopes to get the remaining cast member’s autographs he could not get the day before. Instead of a pizza box he used after seeing the cast exit the stage door the previous night to get autographs, he attended the show and has an actual Playbill tonight. Top on his list of autographs to nab – is David Byrne, or as Aiden refers to him, the “Burn.”
Photo of Aiden Doshi, after scoring his first autograph with love from Angie Swan. Photo Credit: Deepti Doshi (Aiden's mother).
Aiden Doshi, after scoring his first autograph with love from Angie Swan. Photo Credit: Deepti Doshi (Aiden’s mother).
I attended with my associate Melissa Heche, critic, comedian, cabaret performer, and audiologist. It was her last role that got us to this show – she fitted the band for stage earpieces. She met the performers in her office and shot goop into their ears to make molds. When I mentioned I was heading over to see the last performance in limited seating, she wanted in. My seat is for people 5’3″ and under. There is no legroom in the rafters, but I had a seat—finally, a benefit for being short. I headed over to the theater an hour before showtime and called Heche to high tail it over as there were a few remaining seats that patrons returned. We watched the show from opposite ends of the theater.
Utopia ticket with limited leg room notice. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster
Utopia ticket with limited leg room notice. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster
Everything is gray in David Byrne’s `Utopia. The suits, the instruments played Byrne’s hair, and even the gray subject matter he ponders – the brain. Byrne’s cynicism is transparent. From Utopia upside down to discussing his motivation for including songs. “Everybody is Coming to My House” was previously introduced as being sung sweet and inclusively by a Detroit children’s choir. Tonight, we got Byrne’s version where he “wants people to go home already.” At first, hearing Byrne open up the set shouting out songs was unnerving and out of pitch. Once the band kicked in, it was enjoyable. Byrne was thrown out of his high school choir because he could not sing. He is high functioning on the autism spectrum and admits he has difficulty in social settings. All this adds to the show. As Byrne says, if it’s perfect, what is to discuss? In his usual manner, Byrne asks many questions and answers none. According to Byrne, it is not enough to merely perform anymore – there needs to be a message. This show was full of messages from getting out to vote, register, the white guilt he feels, and the inclusivity of the band with the different countries they represent. All done as part of the show, not a straight lecture. He is too intelligent for that. If you could not see the live performance on Broadway, Spike Lee captured it exceptionally well in the film of the same name. Lee states, “if you don’t record it, it’s gone forever.” Lee incorporates pictures of those fallen held in some cases by their loved ones as part of “Hell You Talmbout,” originally done by Janelle Monáe. He includes footage backstage and a wonderful montage of the cast biking off into NYC after the show. Watch even if you saw the show on Broadway for all the extras, closeups, and behind-the-scenes workings. Byrne is also collaborating on a children’s book of the same name.
It's a big score as Chris Giarmo from Paramus N.J. poses with Doshi. Photo credit: Deepti Doshi (Aiden's mother).
It’s a big score as Chris Giarmo from Paramus N.J. poses with Doshi. Photo credit: Deepti Doshi (Aiden’s mother).
Aiden Doshi and Angie Swan from Wisconsin at the stage door. Photo credit: Deepti Doshi (Aiden's mother).
Aiden Doshi and Angie Swan from Wisconsin at the stage door. Photo credit: Deepti Doshi (Aiden’s mother).
Final curtain call. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Final curtain call. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Security team at the stage door. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Security team at the stage door. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
The scene down the block outside the St. James Theater advertising the Music Man and a look at NYC iconic roof water cisterns. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
The scene down the block outside the St. James Theater advertising the Music Man and a look at NYC iconic roof water cisterns. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Photo of Aiden Doshi, after scoring his first autograph with love from Angie Swan. Photo Credit: Deepti Doshi (Aiden's mother).
Aiden Doshi, after scoring his first autograph with love from Angie Swan. Photo Credit: Deepti Doshi (Aiden’s mother).
Photo of Tim Keiper give Dr. Heche a big hug of thanks. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Tim Keiper gave Dr. Heche a big hug of thanks. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Photo of Tim Keiper, Daniel Freedman, and Abe Nouri gave a shout-out of appreciation to their audiologist Dr. Heche. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Tim Keiper, Daniel Freedman, and Abe Nouri gave a shout-out of appreciation to their audiologist Dr. Heche. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Aiden scores again with Bobby Whooten III signing his Playbill. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Aiden scores again with Bobby Whooten III. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Daniel Freedman, Abe Nouri, and Bobby Whooten III at the stage door. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Daniel Freedman, Abe Nouri, and Bobby Whooten III at the stage door. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Abe Nouri and Bobbi Whooten III at the stage door. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Abe Nouri and Bobbi Whooten III at the stage door. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Jacquelene Acevedo signing Aiden's Playbill. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster
Jacquelene Acevedo signing Aiden’s Playbill. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster
Mauro Refosco with a bouquet from the final curtain at the stage door as security applauds. The last time to leave this door was their bittersweet farewell. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Mauro Refosco with a bouquet from the final curtain at the stage door as security applauds. The last time to leave this door was their bittersweet farewell. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Aiden taking inventory of his autographs. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Aiden taking inventory of his autographs. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Chris Eddleton unsuccessfully tried to run out the stage door. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Chris Eddleton unsuccessfully tried to run out the stage door. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster
Final curtain call with technicians Byrne called onto the stage. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Final curtain call with technicians Byrne called onto the stage. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
The stage. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
The stage. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
No intermission – get a double. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
No intermission – get a double. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
No sooner did the show begin than it was over. Off was Byrne on his bike into the gray cityscape; no autographs, parting words, or farewells. When Utopia arrives, Doshi will have to get the “Burn’s” signature.
The guy on a bike with white hair is none other than David Byrne exiting the stage door right after the last performance on 4/3/2022. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
The guy on a bike with white hair is none other than David Byrne exiting the stage door right after the last performance on 4/3/2022. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Talking Heads – David Byrne – This Must Be The Place – Vivo en Santiago 2018 Chile https://youtu.be/CSDvcHE48zk Talking Heads – Take Me To The River https://youtu.be/QmEBlrRRMBQ Well How Did We Get Here? A Brief History of Talking Heads https://youtu.be/KeDf-1Wr-Ks David Byrne’s Desert Island Discs – Talks about his family and music – Radio Broadcast
American Utopia – David Byrne With David Byrne, Gustavo Di Dalva, Tim Keiper, Mauro Refosco, Jaquelene Acevedo, Daniel Freedman, Karl Mansfield, Stéphane San Juan, Renée Albulario, Chris Giarmo, Abe Nouri, Angie Swan, and Bobby Whooten III. Associate choreographer Elizabeth Dement; production stage manager Julie Devore; production supervision Gregory T. Livoti, press representative Boneau/Bryan-Brown; advertising SpotCo; technical supervision Mark Edwards Hudson Theatrical Associates; producer Bee Carrozzini; company manager Elizabeth Rublien; general management Foresight Theatrical; lighting design Rob Sinclair; sound design Pete Keppler; music director Karl Mansfield, Mauro Refosco; production consultant Alex Timbers; choreography and musical staging by Annie-B Parson. St. James Theatre 246 W. 44th Street New York, NY 10036 Readers may also enjoy our reviews of 2000 Mules, Evan Tyrone Martin and Four Days on the Bourbon Trail.

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American Utopia at the St. James Theater

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